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Stay true to yourself, young Rory

Rory McIlroy, the world number one, has been spending a lot of time with Tiger Woods, the former world number one, recently. Oh dear. I fear the worst. I do hope that McIlroy won’t turn into Woods. The two of them were paired together in four events in the autumn, met one another in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya and then played each other in a TV spectacular in China, The Duel at Lake Jinsha, where the current world number one outplayed the former world number one. Though McIlroy got home by one stroke, Woods walked away with the bigger slice of the appearance money: he received £1.24m while McIlroy had to make do with only £623,000.

We know a little about what the two men talked about during their time together – the Premier League, ball spin and ball flight. We can be reasonably sure that they didn’t touch on sex, drugs and rock and roll. A little-known fact is that I have been appointed an unpaid adviser to McIlroy. Here is a list of things I recommend the young man could, should and should not learn from Woods.

DON’T follow Woods’s example and keep changing your swing. It looks gloriously natural at present, flowing and powerful. And it has taken you to World No. 1. Leave it alone. Woods first altered his swing when he was being coached by Butch Harmon. Then he changed it again when he started working with Hank Haney to compensate for injuries and now that Sean Foley is his coach he is changing it again, again partly to accommmodate physical ailments.

DO stick with Michael Bannon, your longtime coach. He knows your swing inside out. Perhaps more importantly, he knows you and your foibles very well indeed having worked with you for so many years. Jack Nicklaus started each year by spending time with Jack Grout, his boyhood coach, and though in later years he used other coaches as well he never really strayed from Grout’s influences. Bobby Jones was true to Stewart Maiden, Arnold Palmer to Deacon Palmer, his father, Tom Watson to Byron Nelson. Bannon has done a remarkable job with you so far. Don't give him up.

DON’T spit and swear. Spitting is one of Woods’s most unatttractive characteristics. I don’t believe he truly realises just how offensive it is perceived to be. For that matter, don’t swear, at least not when on television. A few years ago it was said that the total of Woods's fines for swearing was considerable, even though it was kept quiet by the PGA Tour in the US. It is no excuse for Woods to say that as the world's leading player he is on television more than any other player and therefore a microphone is listening out for him more often than anyone else. Professionalism should rise above that. Just think of something else to say than the F word.

DO remain as charming as you are now. You have no idea how attractive a characteristic it is. You have an easy smile, a soft voice and seem genuinely comfortable with people. You are polite and courteous with your inquisitors in media centres around the world. Woods’s millionwatt smile is flashed only occasionally, his voice can be harsh and his eyes dark and menacing. He avoids eye contact a lot of the time and seems intent only on getting from A to B as quickly as he can with few interruptions.

DO continue to sign autographs as often as you can. It is remarkable what a good impression this gives. Remember who your fans are. Don’t demean them. Don’t ignore them. The little boy with a whiny voice whose piece of paper you refused to autograph at a tournament may grow up to be chief executive officer of a company who wants to do business with you. In other words they may consider giving you a lot of money.

DON’T copy too many of Woods’s time management techniques, some of which are attributable to Mark Steinberg, Woods’s hard-nosed manager. You admitted recently that you’ve been influenced by Woods in this respect. Oh dear. “They’ve managed that [Woods’s time] very well” McIlroy said. “It is obviously hard to say yes to everyone. You have to make sure you do what is right for your game and they have managed Woods’s time very well.”

DO continue to be available to the media because they provide the copy that helps to retain the public’s interest in you and that brings in sponsorship, which is so important to you. Do you think Banco Santander would be so interested in using you as an advertising vehicle if millions of words were not written about you each year – and thousands of photographs taken of you as well?

DO learn from Woods’s attitude. When you and he met in the quarter-final of the Turkish Airlines World Golf final recently he beat you comfortably. Asked if you were disappointed, you said: “Not really. I’ve got an afternoon by the pool so I don't mind.” Full marks for honesty but remember that Woods would never have said that, even if he thought it. How many times has he said: “you know me guys, I don’t bag it” even when he has. Publicly, at least, you must always seem to have tried as hard as you can. Woods does. You should.

January 2013

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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